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LA TROBE UNIVERSITY STUDENT COMPLAINT AND GRIEVANCE HANDLING ...
LA TROBE UNIVERSITY STUDENT COMPLAINT AND GRIEVANCE HANDLING POLICY AND PROCEDURES 1 BACKGROUND In May 2005 a report into the Review of Complaint Handling in Victorian Universities was released following an investigation which commenced in August 2004. This report was released by the Victorian Ombudsman’s Office and involved eight (8) Victorian universities. The findings of this review were based on investigations with approx ninety-three (93) individuals from the eight universities, including reviewing university websites, publications and various focused forums. A meeting was called by the University Secretary to examine the findings of this report and its relationship with La Trobe University. A working party was formed to develop a Student Complaint Handling Procedure, building upon existing Policies, Regulations and Statutes within the University. 2 PREAMBLE The University encourages and welcomes feedback on aspects of the University’s operation. It recognises the rights of students to express dissatisfaction or make complaints about processes or services provided by the University. The University is committed to continuous improvement and ensures complaints and expressions of concern are analysed to improve academic and administrative services. The University is committed to transparent processes, ensuring complaints are dealt with fairly, consistently and promptly. The University’s procedures for handling grievances and complaints comply with Standards Australia’s Guide to prevention, Handling and Resolution of Disputes (AS4608 -2004) and Complaints Handling (AS4269-1995) and with the requirements of the Commonwealth Education Services for Overseas Students Act (2000) [ NOTE –in developing these procedures, they need to comply with these standards and once in draft form will be assessed against these.] 3 DEFINITION For the purpose of this document Complaint - a statement expressing disagreement or dissatisfaction made to a person in authority at La Trobe University that requires action or response. Grievance - a formal statement expressing disagreement or dissatisfaction where a student believed he/she has been adversely affected by a decision made to a person in authority at La Trobe University that requires action or response. 4 PRINCIPLES GOVERNING GRIEVANCE AND COMPLAINT RESOLUTION The following are the underlying principles of this procedure :- a) Accessible and simple – Students MUST know the avenues of logging a complaint and the process must be as simply as possible to follow. STUDENT COMPLAINT AND GRIEVANCE HANDLING POLICY AND PROCEDURES continued b) Transparent – The processes for handling complaints and appeals must be transparent in operation and outcome. c) Equity – Complaints are dealt with in an equitable and culturally sensitive manner. d) Procedural Fairness – The process needs to ensure complaints are handled and judged on merit and there should be fairness to all concerned. e) Timely – Students must have ALL complaints dealt with in a timely manner. f) Quality and improvement – The Complaint process MUST allow the University/Units to reflect on practices and have the ability to improve them. g) Accountability – Specific staff within each major organisational unit within La Trobe University need to take on a complaint advocate role. We need to instil a culture that assists with complaint handling, rather than one which passes the problem. The University is well placed with the University’s Ombudsman’s Office and having one person in each Faculty/major organisation unit provides a mechanism to assist in the communication process relating to complaints. h) Confidential – The University will ensure information pertaining to the complaint will be keep confidential and used for the purpose for which it was collected, unless i) The express written consent of the individual(s) concerned is obtained; or ii) The University has reasonable grounds for believing that the use of the information will reduce threat to life or health of any person; or iii) The use is specifically required by law i) This Complaint and Grievance handling Policy and Procedures do not derogate from the rights of an individual under State and Federal law to make or pursue a complaint through an external agency 5 SCOPE OF THE POLICY AND PROCEDURE This Policy covers any student of La Trobe University and any person applying for admission or scholarship to the University who may have a complaint about a decision, service, facility or process provided by the University, while they are or were undertaking, or applying for admission and/or scholarship in a University course or unit. 6 POLICY EXCLUSIONS This Policy applies to any student (as above) relating to academic or administrative decisions or processes with the exception of complaints relating to:- Policy Process Reference Sexual Harassment www.latrobe.edu.au/equity/ Harassment and Discrimination www.latrobe.edu.au/equity/ Bullying www.latrobe.edu.au/equity/ Occupational Health and Safety www.latrobe.edu.au/ohs/ Privacy www.latrobe.edu.au/privacy Trade Practices Complaints www.complaintline.com.au/trpractbreach.html Copyright www.latrobe.edu.au/legalservices/copyright.html Academic or General Misconduct www.latrobe.edu.au/legalservices/regulations.html Regulation 16.1, 16.2 Academic Progress www.latrobe.edu.au/legalservices/regulations.html Regulation 19.1 Other policies approved by Council www.latrobe.edu.au/policies/ Version 1.4 APRIL 2006 2 of 7 Prepared by Working Group on Grievance and Complaint Handling STUDENT COMPLAINT AND GRIEVANCE HANDLING POLICY AND PROCEDURES continued 7 TYPES OF GRIEVANCES Academic Grievances These are normally complaints or appeals against academic activities. They include but are not limited to :- Reg/Stat Grievance nature Process Reference R19.1 Academic Progress of Students www.latrobe.edu.au/legalservices/regulations.html R19.1 Exclusion for Academic reasons www.latrobe.edu.au/legalservices/regulations.html R21.12 Reassessment of Academic Work www.latrobe.edu.au/legalservices/regulations.html A decision of a member of staff that Complaint Handling Policy affects an individual or group of students Selection or admission decisions Complaint Handling Policy Content or structure of academic Complaint Handling Policy programs, nature of teaching etc Supervision issues for research Complaint Handling Policy degree students It is important to note that appeals relating to Academic Progress, Exclusion and Reassessment should follow the procedure detailed in the relevant university regulations. Administrative Grievances These relate to decisions or actions associated with administrative or academic services. They include but are not limited to :- Reg/Stat Grievance nature Process Reference Administration of Policies, Complaint Handling Policy procedures and rules by the University. A decision of a member of staff that Complaint Handling Policy affects an individual or group of students Access to University resources and Complaint Handling Policy facilities except where covered by Sexual Harassment, Harassment and Discrimination Policy and Procedure. Discrimination, harassment and bullying It is important to note that because other procedures apply, students should not follow the Complaint handling process as detailed in this document for the following grievances. References have been given to the Policy/Regulations which should be followed. 8 GROUNDS FOR COMPLAINT A student has right to lodge a complaint or lodge an appeal against a decision made in relation to a complaint or grievance covered by this Policy if the student believes they have been adversely affected by one or more of the following: - Version 1.4 APRIL 2006 3 of 7 Prepared by Working Group on Grievance and Complaint Handling STUDENT COMPLAINT AND GRIEVANCE HANDLING POLICY AND PROCEDURES continued • improper, irregular or negligent conduct against a student by a staff member of the University • failure by a University staff member to act fairly or without prejudice or bias • failure to adhere to appropriate or relevant published University policies and procedures • a decision made without sufficient consideration of facts, evidence or circumstances of specific relevance to the student • a penalty, where applied, is considered too harsh. • failure by the University to make a decision within a timely manner. 9 PROCEDURES IN THE GRIEVANCE AND COMPLAINTS PROCESS The following sections indicate the procedure in dealing with Informal or Formal Complaint. Informal Complaints Resolution An informal complaint will normally be an oral complaint. Informal complaints are generally considered by providing informal advice and support to enable the complainant to decide whether to take no action, deal with the matter individually, request a meeting to discuss the informal complaint or request that the grievance be taken through the formal grievance process. The first point of contact should be the supervisor or person responsible for the area in which the alleged grievance has occurred. Information regarding the informal grievances may be recorded in each organisational unit and submitted to the University Ombudsman at the end of each year. a) Complainant raises concern regarding a particular service or process b) Staff member will listen to the concern c) Staff member will explore options and implications of resolving the issue In making the determination one of the following options will be chosen. • No action is deem appropriate • Lodge a suggestion form available at www.latrobe.edu.au/complaints • Advise the complainant to Lodge a formal written complaint (ensuring the complainant understand the process to be followed) d) Recording of Informal Complaints Organisational Units may determine the process of recording informal complaints, however recording is not mandatory Formal written Complaints a) Complainant raises Formal Complaint A person who is dissatisfied with any University service, decision or process • can make a formal written complaint (by letter, email or advised format) to the person or area responsible for providing it. The complainant must make clear that it is a complaint, as opposed to comments, feedback or suggestion. Any formal complaint will result in a direct response to the complainant. A complainant must provide where appropriate their full name and La Trobe student identity number . Please note a group of students may lodge one complaint, but each must provide their full name and student identity number. • are required to initiate the formal complaint within 10 weeks of the specific incident or decision that forms the substance of the complaint, and within 14 days for assessment complaints. Version 1.4 APRIL 2006 4 of 7 Prepared by Working Group on Grievance and Complaint Handling STUDENT COMPLAINT AND GRIEVANCE HANDLING POLICY AND PROCEDURES continued • may make a complaint about an on-going service or process at any time during their admission, application for scholarship, enrolment or attendance. • are advised to keep notes of any incident or actions that form part of their complaint. • are advised that no person or agency may complain on behalf of a student. Note: Alternatively, a complainant may lodge a complaint directly with the University Ombudsman under University Regulation 39.1. The complaint must be put in writing no later than twelve months after the action or decision the subject of complaint (unless the Ombudsman considers that special circumstances justify an extension of time). b) University receives the Formal Complaint and records it Upon receiving the formal complaint staff shall request a “complaint handling reference number” which will be used to track the complaint internally. The information to be stored will assist the University in reporting information regarding the number of complaints. c) University will acknowledge the complaint Upon receiving the formal complaint, the University will acknowledge the complaint in writing (via letter or electronic means) to the complainant(s) within 5 business days. The acknowledgement will include i) the name of the staff member who will be handling the complaint, ii) an outline of the process being used to resolve the complaint and iii) the estimated time frame for resolving the complaint. If special circumstances delay or prevent the provision of the above details, the acknowledgment letter will explain the delay and indicate when a detailed response will be sent. When a delay has not been indicated in the acknowledgment letter and such a delay occurs the complainant must be notified in writing of a revised time frame for resolving the complaint. d) University will investigate the complaint Under this policy the staff member who receives the complaint can delegate the investigation and resolution of the complaint to a member of staff who has the authority and skills to investigate and resolve complaints. • The investigating staff member may consult with and seek advice from any appropriate University Committee or staff member, discussing the complaint as a ‘case in principle” where possible. • The investigating staff member may request a formal meeting with the complainant or any other staff member. Complainants should be advised at this point they may bring a support person with them to any such meeting. No person or agency may appear on behalf of a complainant except in special circumstances with the permission of the person conducting the hearing. • A complainant has the right to be heard either through written submission and/or personal representation at any formal meeting considering their complaint. e) University will communicate the decision or resolution Communication of the decision or resolution shall occur within 5 business days after the decision has been made. The University will communicate the decision or resolution in writing to the last known mailing address of the complainant as recorded by the University. Version 1.4 APRIL 2006 5 of 7 Prepared by Working Group on Grievance and Complaint Handling STUDENT COMPLAINT AND GRIEVANCE HANDLING POLICY AND PROCEDURES continued 10 TIMELINES FOR FORMAL COMPLAINT RESOLUTION a) Complainant raises Formal Complaint Within 10 Weeks of incident or decision or Within 14 days for assessment complaints b) Timeframe to resolve the complaint Various as determined by University c) University will acknowledge the complaint Within 5 working days d) University will investigate complaint As determined in b) e) University will communicate decision Within 5 working days 11 PARTICIPATION AND SUPPORT AVAILABLE DURING THE COMPLAINT RESOLUTION PROCESS Complainants should be made aware of various staff and organisations which may provide assistance during the Complaint Resolution process. Teaching Staff Academic Services Manager or Registrar in each Faculty Counselling Service staff Equity and Access Staff or elected representative of Student organisations 12 WITHDRAWAL OF A GRIEVANCE OR COMPLAINT A complainant may at any time during the complaints resolution process withdraw a complaint by placing the intent to withdraw the complaint or grievance in writing and forwarding it to the member of staff to whom the original complaint was raised or the person designated to handle the complaint as informed by the University. 13 REVIEWS AND APPEALS If after formal notification of the decision or resolution, a complainant doesn’t believe that the complaint has been adequately resolved, then he or she may seek an investigation or reconsideration by way of review or appeal to the University Ombudsman under University Statute 39. The complainant must lodge the written complaint with the University Ombudsman no later than twelve months after the action or decision the subject of complaint (unless the University Ombudsman considers that special circumstances justify an extension of that time). 13 EXTERNAL AGENCIES The Ombudsman Victoria is an independent statutory office holder whose role is to investigate complaints about administrative actions and decisions taken by State government departments and authorities including universities. If a complainant, after following the avenues available within this procedure, is not satisfied with the outcome or process of a student appeal, he or she may wish to take their complaint to:- Ombudsman Victoria Level 3 South Tower 459 Collins Street MELBOURNE 3000 DX 210174 Telephone 03 9613 6222 Version 1.4 APRIL 2006 6 of 7 Prepared by Working Group on Grievance and Complaint Handling STUDENT COMPLAINT AND GRIEVANCE HANDLING POLICY AND PROCEDURES continued Facsimile 03 9614 0246 Toll Free 1800 806 314 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.ombudsman.vic.gov.au 12 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This Complaint and Grievance handling policy and procedures of a number of organisations were considered during the development of this policy and procedure. Sections of this policy have been adapted from a range of organisations. The policies of the following organisations are acknowledged as reference points: Charles Sturt University, Deakin University, University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales, Queensland Ombudsman Office, Monash University, University of Adelaide. Version 1.4 APRIL 2006 7 of 7 Prepared by Working Group on Grievance and Complaint Handling
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